What does it mean to be extreme? This is a question which has puzzled some of the greatest minds to have graced the Earth. From Socrates to Einstein, many have tried to define the essence of the extreme and many have failed in their pursuit.
But despair not, dear reader. Outdoor Tech comes bearing glad tidings, for the essence of extremeness has at last been divined! It cannot be reduced to a mere definition, but must be revealed in action. It is for this reason we present to you these 6 sports, each of which perfectly captures what it means to be extreme.
That’s right: chessboxing. Created by a Dutch performance artist in the early 2000’s, chessboxing is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a hybrid sport which combines the mental finesse of chess with the physical demands of boxing to create what may very well be the most extreme sport ever. Each chessboxing match consists of 11 3-minute rounds, which alternate between chess and boxing. Competitors win by either knockout or checkmate. Bet you wish you hadn’t given the high school chess club so much grief now, huh?
You probably first heard of space diving when Felix Baumgartner set a skydiving world record by jumping out of a balloon at 127,000 feet as part of the Red Bull Stratos project. As it turns out however, space diving has been around since 1960, when Air Force captain and all around badass Joseph Kittinger jumped from a weather balloon at 102,000 feet and reached speeds over 600 mph on his descent to earth. His record stood for 52 years until it was broken by Baumgartner in 2012. Best part about this? Kittinger served as the Stratos capsule communicator and was there to meet Baumgartner when he landed.
Calling ‘Tar Barrels’ a sport might be a bit of a stretch, but it is pretty extreme. What happens is every November 5, a bunch of Englishmen get together in Ottery St. Mary to run up and down the streets while carrying flaming barrels of tar on their backs. It’s less about competition than being able to prove that you’re willing to do something that no sane person would agree to. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Nobody knows why this tradition came about really (some claim ties to the famous gunpowder plot of 1605), but the folks of Ottery will defend to their death the right to do it.
Again, here’s a sport which doesn’t need much explaining. The basic idea is this: find a volcano, hike to the top, strap a modified snowboard to your feet and proceed to shred some obsidian. The sport was dreamt up by National Geographic journalist and transhumanist presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan when he was 21 years old on a solo sailing journey around the world. According to him, there’s two ways to go about it. You can take the easy way out and carve up an inactive volcano. Or you can really earn some respect by surfing an active volcano… just watch out for the molten lava. And ash that cuts like glass. And the cliffs. And the poisonous gasses. Don’t worry—I’m sure you’ll be fine.
This is a sport that requires very little investment to get into. All you need is an iron, some wrinkled laundry, a sense of humor, and poor judgment. All good to go? Okay, now go find the most dangerous locale you can think of and start getting rid of those creases. Created by an Englishman in the late 90s, Extreme Ironing is half joke and half serious. It’s gained something of a cult following in the last decade, with enthusiasts taking their board everywhere from war zones to the top of moving cars to the bottom of the ocean.
What better way to celebrate a successful harvest than by strapping yourself behind a bull and surfing through some paddy fields? According to the opinion of the residents of Kerala, India, there is no better way. Each year, the villagers come out at the end of August to watch dozens of their closest friends stand on a board that is yoked to two bulls and proceed to surf (okay, that’s a euphemism, ‘dragged’ is probably more accurate) through ankle deep water in their fields. While you can’t really ‘lose’ at this sport, it’s safe to say that everyone who participates in something as awesome as Bull Surfing can be called a winner.